Sunday Homestead Update

It has been a nice quiet week on the farm.  Not much going on – it is always nice to occasionally have some weeks like that.

Incubation

We are now on day 9 of our incubation.  We candled eggs and had 10 infertile out of 75 (87% fertility) which isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible either.  We have had 9 early deaths so far, which seems very high for our norm, but we are dealing with first-generation birds from low-altitude hatching at high altitude and we found previously that our hatch rates are much lower with the first generation than with later generations.  So that leaves us with 56 eggs still alive in the incubators.

Basement

We have an unfinished basement and we are beginning to slowly work at finishing it how we want it.  This week we started by building the first wall of the pantry/larder/root cellar area.  Last year we built some really nice shelves in this area

then in the fall we added the root cellar veggie racks…

and now we are working to close the room in.  We got the first wall up and hope to get the next wall and door in soon.

Heritage Arts

The girls and I have continued forward with our projects.  I have been knitting some dish cloths, and Little Miss is making matching scrubbies to go with them.

Little Miss is also cross stitching a bookmark.

And Sunshine is working on a long-term cross stitch project of a garden ABC sampler.

Yay for nice laid-back winter weeks!

Sunday Homestead Update

We have been doing some pretty typical mid-winter activities lately, and some not-so-typical as well.

Preparing for Spring!

We placed our garden seed order, which is a very exciting part of winter around here.  We have ordered exclusively from Seeds Trust the last few years because they have heirloom varieties that are specifically bred to do well at high altitude in the Rockies.  We have had great success with them.  Because we save our own seeds as well the order isn’t typically very big.  This year is our biggest order in awhile because I didn’t save as many seeds last year.  The planning for a garden is such a hope-filled activity.  Dreaming of what could be this year….I love it!

We also decided to order some chicks!  As you know, we have had to temporarily down-size our farm because of our 2-year-old’s ongoing serious health issues.  So we are currently only raising chickens.  And the older kids took over the care of the barn and barnyard (chickens, LGD, and barn cats) to free up Mtn Man and I since we are often gone to specialists and hospitals hours away.  Because they have totally taken over the care of the chickens, I thought it only right that they could decide what to do with them this year as far as production, breeding, selling, etc.  They are already selling the extra eggs we don’t use.

So they all discussed it and decided that just because we had to downsize doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue being as productive as possible towards feeding ourselves from our farm, which is the main goal of our homestead – to feed our family as much as we can from our little plot of land.  They discussed different breeding options, incubating vs. broody hens, buying chicks, etc.  They decided that they will let any broody hen hatch that wants to.  Those chicks will be used for meat, and replacement laying hens.  But since they are only using broodies and not the incubator, that wouldn’t be very much meat (maybe 15-20 birds depending on how many sets the hens are willing to do), so then they decided it was high-time we tried meat birds.  We have discussed it every year but never get around to it.  So they have ordered 40 Red Ranger Broilers.  They discussed potentially getting frankenbirds (Cornish cross), but decided they wanted to be more natural than that and didn’t want to deal with the health issues involved with those.  The Red Rangers are able to free range and are at butcher weight by 9-11 weeks.

Then they decided that since they will be brooding chicks anyway, they wanted to add some Silkies to the mix because we only have one and she is our best broody hen.  They want more broody hens, so they added a straight run of 10 Silkies to the order, hoping to get 5 or so more silky hens, of which hopefully 3 will be good broody girls.  We are looking forward to having chicks arrive in March!

Heritage Arts

I have continued to try to finish some of my Works-in-Progress (WIPs).  This week it was a crosstitch:

The pattern said “Market Carrots” but I changed it to “Prize Carrots” to commemorate the fact that Sunshine and I grew the first and second place carrots in our entire county fair.

We have also been working on the English Paper Piecing quilt.  I will be sharing more about how to do English Paper Piecing later this week.

Firewood

We normally do our wood gathering, splitting, and stacking in the fall.  But this fall was all catiwompus around here, so nothing normal seemed to get done.  This means that we are splitting wood and stacking it several times throughout the winter to be able to keep our house warm.  Thankfully, we have had a mild winter so far, which means that #1 we are not going through as much wood, and #2 it is nicer weather for stacking and splitting.  This last week we saw that a snow storm was inbound so we spent time getting ready for it.  This is the wood rack for ONE of our two woodstoves.  That should last us a few weeks.  Feels good to have it all filled up.

 

Sunday Homestead Update

This week Mtn Man made a good analogy of what our life feels like lately – he said it feels like every day we start competing in a new episode of American Ninja Warrior.  We are constantly facing one obstacle after another and have to decide how best to conquer each one quickly, but effectively.  But in our daily life version of the show if we fall in the water we aren’t done…we just have to continue on with the rest of the obstacles while sopping wet.  And at the end of the day we are anxious to just slam down on that buzzer, celebrate that we survived, and collapse into bed exhausted.  It seemed very fitting to me when he described it.  So, needless to say, we are in a busy season right now.  But we are getting through it well, with only occasional sopping wet moments, and a lot of good buzzer moments to look back on.

The loss of Gretchen’s doeling and the stress of the ordeal surrounding it has been hard on the family this week.  But the morning that she died, as I walked out to the barn at 5:30am, I saw this amazing sunrise. It was even better in person…I find that my phone camera never does justice to a sunrise or sunset.  But it helped give me perspective on how blessed we are despite the loss.  And I will continue to choose the homesteading lifestyle even though it sometimes breaks my heart.  Because really, every version of life will break your heart at some point, and we love all the blessings that come with the homesteading life.

 

Goats

Heidi and her baby, Fern, are doing well.  Fern is oh-so-cute bouncing around the barnyard.  She loves to play king-of-the-mountain on top of the compost pile.  Her ears are pretty funny – since her father was a Nigerian Dwarf (upright ears), and her mother is a Nubian (droopy ears), she has these in-between ears that kind of stick out to the sides most of the time, but also go up a lot.  Very cute.  She is anxious to have someone to play with, so I hope our first lambs arrive soon.

Gretchen is recovering from her delivery.  Her milk amounts are slowly increasing, but are way below what we expected.  We don’t know why she has such low production.  Maybe her old age?  Maybe the trauma from the delivery?  Maybe the meds she had to take afterwards?  We still can’t drink the milk until Monday because of the meds.  We haven’t decided what we will do with her yet.

It was really cute when we started letting Heidi and Fern back out with the flock.  Gretchen was so happy to have them back.  She definitely does not like hanging out with the sheep and is adamant that she is a goat and needs to hang out only with goats.  Her and Heidi were rubbing on each other with their heads, kind of like cats do.  Clearly happy to be back together and able to form their own little group separate from the sheep.

We made our first batch of Chevre this week with the goat milk.  It tasted good just plain, but we are also experimenting with adding different herbs and such to the cheese.

Sheep

We are closing in on our first sheep lambing due dates.  Rianna’s udder is starting to bag up quite a bit, and her babies have dropped.  So we are expecting hers this week.  We are struggling to keep weight on her because #1 she is old and her back teeth are not good, #2 her babies are taking up space so she can’t eat as much, and #3 she is the bottom of the pecking order and always being chased away.  We have been putting her in her own stall to feed her and we are giving her as much grain as we can safely give her, plus almost unlimited alfalfa, but she is still underweight.  We are contemplating getting her some alfalfa cubes and moistening them to see if that makes it easier for her to eat.  This is definitely her last year as a breeding ewe.  We bought her a few months ago, already bred, to hopefully sire the future breeding ram for our flock.

Violet is the next one due and she is a first-time mother.  Her udder is bagging up just a little at this point.  Agnes is starting to bag up as well, and might be due sooner than we expected.  Fiona is the last one due – mid april – and she is the flock matriarch.  She is getting quite overweight in our efforts to keep everyone else up to weight.  So we are contemplating ways to be sure she doesn’t get any fatter because it can effect her ability to give birth safely.

Managing the flock has been a bit high-maintenance lately, as you can see, but we are really excited for all the upcoming lambs.

Chicks

The chicks have left the fluffy stage and are in the half-fluff/half-feather stage.  They will likely move up to the coop, with their heaters, sometime in the next week or so.

Barnyard Maintenance

We don’t have any pasture since we live on a rocky mountainside.  So all of our animals live in the barnyard.  The main key to making that live-able and clean is to be very careful not to over-crowd the space.  We keep our number of animals low so that all the animals have plenty of space and the area stays cleaner.  A few times a year we rake all the barnyard mess (droppings and leftover hay) into the compost piles in the center of the yard so it can mix with the stall scrapings and break down into compost for the garden.  It helps keep the ground cleaned up for the animals too.  The chickens and Mountain Man stir and turn the piles throughout the year to help them break down.

We had some really nice weather this week, after the winds died down, and we used the opportunity to do a barnyard cleaning.  As we raked the spots that had a lot of hay on them we found a layer of snow and ice under the hay that hadn’t melted because it was insulated by the hay.  So raking it up will help that melt as well.

Heritage Arts

Despite the crazy busy life lately, I still am working on my heritage arts projects – they are my sanity :-).

I finished a cross stitch bookmark for Little Miss:

And I am now working on this cross stitch pattern called “Market Carrots.”  I have never done a project on black Aida cloth before.

And I am also working on serging the edges of the new spring/Easter placemats and cloth napkins I am making.

Plenty going on around here!

Homestead Update

Whew!…it’s been a little while since I have posted.  Life is going full blast in all good directions, but it leaves little time for the computer, which honestly, since I was born a century too late, doesn’t bother me much.

Here’s an update of what’s up at our homestead.

Goats

Heidi and her doeling, Fern (the kids changed the doeling’s name), are doing very well.  The other two doelings were sold as bottle babies.

But before we sold them we had the vet out to do the dreaded dis-budding and teach Mtn Man how to do it so we can do it on our own next time.  It was NOT a fun process and we are so glad it is over.  If we didn’t have a mixed flock we would likely leave the horns, but since none of the rest of our flock have horns, we didn’t want to keep a goat that had them and have them become a bully or injure the other flock members who don’t have the same weapons on their heads.

We are getting about 1/2 – 3/4 gallon of milk from Heidi, milking twice a day, while still leaving Fern with her mom full time.  We were planning to close kids off at night and just milk once a day in the morning once Gretchen had her kids, but as you will see below, that wont be happening.  It is too cold to close Fern off on her own at night, and since there are no other kids to be with her we are just milking twice a day and sharing Heidi with Fern.  We are really enjoying having fresh, raw milk again.

Gretchen, sadly, had a very rough delivery last Friday/Saturday.  We were able to save her, but not the doeling that she was carrying.  It was a very stressful and sad ordeal for the whole family.  A hard reminder that this lifestyle includes painful losses right along with all the wonderful life and joy.  It also made us all the more grateful that Heidi was able to safely deliver her triplets despite the first one being breech.

Gretchen is currently on antibiotics and meds to help her heal from the ordeal, and time will tell what we are going to do with her.  The vet made it out the farm after I finally got the baby out (one of the drawbacks of living over an hour from the nearest large animal vet) and he said he believes Gretchen is older than we were told she was when we bought her and that she is too old to breed again – it would be too dangerous for her.  In addition, she isn’t making much milk yet.  We don’t know if that is from the stress and strain of the birth, or what.  We can’t drink the milk anyway, because of the meds she is on.  So we will see if she is able to produce a good lactation or not and that will help decide what we will do with her.

Sheep

Two of the sheep are now in their last month of pregnancy and we have shifted their feed and given them their CDT vaccinations.  No worming this year because we opted to do fecal tests instead and everyone came back worm free.  The other two pregnant sheep are still about 6 weeks out.

Chickens & Chicks

My hens are doing fine, nothing new with them.  The chicks are growing fast – as always.  They are starting to get their feathers.  They will stay in brooders another week or so and then move up to the upper coop.  After my last post we still had more chicks die – all of the same breed from the same hatchery.  The other chicks of that breed that came from a different hatchery, as well as the other breeds from a different hatchery all survived fine.  I think that is pretty strong evidence that it has to do with the hatchery and either their breeding stock, or their handling of eggs and chicks.  Thankfully, all the remaining chicks are strong and healthy and I think we are through with having chicks die.

Garden

We are closing in on time to start seeds indoors in a couple of weeks.  I am beginning to prepare my seed starting supplies and finalize my plans.

Heritage Arts

My knitting has taken a back seat lately as I have been in the mood to cross stitch.  I have also been working on finishing up the last few skirts I am making for myself and the girls.  And I am starting to work on the spring/Easter placemat/napkin set I am making to add to my seasonal placemat/napkin goal for this year.

 

I haven’t had time for photos recently, but hoping to get some photos up in the next week or so of all the things going on around here.